BUENOS AIRES, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) -- Researchers in Argentina have discovered the fossil remains of a pterosaur, a flying reptile that lived some 170 million years ago.
The discovery, in southern Argentina's Chubut province, "is important because it sheds light on one of the least known stages in the evolution of pterosaurs," researcher Diego Pol told the state Telam news agency.
The fossil also "shows how much still remains to be discovered about the Jurassic in the southern hemisphere," said Pol, a researcher at the National Council of Technical and Scientific Research.
The pterosaur fossil is the oldest found to date, and was featured on Tuesday in the international biological and medical sciences journal PeerJ.
"Here we report on a new Jurassic pterosaur from Argentina ... remains of which include a superbly preserved, uncrushed braincase that sheds light on the origins of the highly derived neuroanatomy of pterodactyloids and their close relatives," the journal said.
A team of Argentine and German researchers made the discovery in the country's frigid Patagonian region, which is near the South Pole.
"The cranium was so well preserved that we have been able to reconstruct the cerebral cavity and understand the changes made to the pterosaur (brain) in adapting to its particular mode of locomotion, flight," said Pol.
Researchers named the find Allkaruen Koi, which in the language of the area's original indigenous inhabitants, the tehuelche, means "ancient brain of the lagoon," since the fossil was among the sediments at the bottom of what was a giant lagoon when South America began to break off from the African continent.
Pterosaurs are "close relatives" of dinosaurs and could have up to 13-meter-long wingspans, according to pterosaur.net, a website created and maintained by pterosaur researchers.